Advancing LGBTQ+ leadership: the role of advocates in workplace progression

Advocates are catalysts for workplace diversity and inclusion, especially in supporting the advancement of LGBTQ+ employees’ progression into more senior positions. In the pursuit of workplace equality, they work diligently to dismantle barriers for diverse communities, including LGBTQ+ individuals. Their commitment to fostering inclusive environments where everyone can thrive is instrumental in driving meaningful cultural change within organizations.

In this article, we’ll explore the pivotal role advocates play in championing LGBTQ+ employees’ progression to Executive and Board positions and provide actionable insights for effective advocacy in the workplace.

Progression challenges for LGBTQ+ employees

Despite significant progress in LGBTQ+ rights over the years, there remains a noticeable lack of senior LGBTQ+ representation in many organizations.

Our Pride at Work report, released last year with INvolve, found many barriers hindering LGBTQ+ individuals’ progression in the corporate world. An Ipsos survey across 27 countries revealed that while openly LGBTQ+ individuals constitute 9% of the global population, this diversity is not reflected in senior leadership roles. For instance, there are currently only four openly LGBTQ+ CEOs in the Fortune 500 and one in the FTSE 100.

One of the most significant challenges to progressing LGBTQ+ talent highlighted in the report is the lack of visible LGBTQ+ role models in senior leadership positions. This can adversely impact LGBTQ+ employees’ career progression, as it discourages talent from applying to senior management positions and limits the availability of champions in leadership advocating for LGBTQ+ inclusion. Additionally, the report also highlighted that 65% of LGBTQ+ employees feel the need to code-switch and tone down parts of their identity in order to progress in their careers.

Advocacy strategies for LGBTQ+ leadership progression

Becoming an effective advocate for LGBTQ+ talent requires leaders to address these challenges and create more inclusive workplaces that enable LGBTQ+ employees to progress in their careers. Here are some key strategies for advocates to champion LGBTQ+ employees’ advancement to Executive and Board positions:

  • Promote inclusive policies: Advocate for the implementation of comprehensive policies that support LGBTQ+ employees’ career development and well-being. This includes non-discrimination policies, inclusive benefits, and gender-affirming healthcare coverage, ensuring that all employees have access to equitable opportunities for growth and advancement.
  • Identify and mentor talent: Recognize and nurture promising LGBTQ+ talent within the organization through mentorship, sponsorship, and tailored development programs. By investing in the professional growth of LGBTQ+ employees, advocates help cultivate a pipeline of diverse leaders who bring unique perspectives and experiences to executive and board roles.
  • Challenge bias and stereotypes: Address unconscious bias and stereotypes that may hinder LGBTQ+ employees’ progression in the workplace. Advocate for fair and objective evaluation processes, and challenge assumptions about LGBTQ+ individuals’ capabilities and qualifications for leadership positions. By fostering a culture of inclusivity and meritocracy, advocates create environments where talent is recognized and rewarded irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Support LGBTQ+ initiatives: Collaborate with Employee Resource Groups (ERG) and external LGBTQ+ organizations to amplify advocacy efforts and drive systemic change. By building coalitions and alliances, advocates leverage collective strength and influence to affect meaningful change in organizational policies, practices, and culture.
  • Advocate for LGBTQ+ representation: Push for increased LGBTQ+ representation in leadership positions and decision-making processes. Leaders need to encourage their organizations to implement inclusive recruitment practices and mentorship programs that support LGBTQ+ career progression.
  • Measure progress and encourage accountability: Advocate for transparency and accountability in the organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Push for regular monitoring and reporting of LGBTQ+ representation at all levels of the organization, including senior positions. This ensures that commitments to diversity and equity translate into tangible actions and outcomes.


Advocates are pivotal in advancing LGBTQ+ employees’ progression to Executive and Board positions. By leveraging their privilege to advocate and support diverse communities, they drive meaningful change within organizations, creating environments where LGBTQ+ individuals can thrive and lead authentically.

As we continue the journey towards more diverse and inclusive workplaces, the advocacy efforts of allies and champions remain essential in shaping a future where every individual has the opportunity to reach their full potential.